Making a Form 4 Complaint to the Court.
If you have a serious complaint about a Certificated Bailiff, there is a procedure that you can use which is referred to as a Form 4 Complaint. However, before considering whether to issue a Form 4 Complaint you need to be aware of some of the pitfalls associated with such applications. The Statutory Regulations relating to Certificated Bailiff’s are outlined in the Distress for Rent Act 1988 (as amended) and this provides for complaints about the conduct of Certificated Bailiff’s to be made to the County Court (where the bailiff obtained his certificate) using a very simple court form called a Form 4. A copy of your complaint must be sent to the court where the bailiff is certificated (you can obtain this information from the HMCS on-line Bailiff Register). The court will forward a copy of your complaint to the bailiff and his employer and the bailiff must submit his written response back to the court within 14 days. If the judge is satisfied with the response, no further action is taken and you will receive a letter from the court. If the bailiff fails to deliver a reply or, if upon reading the reply, the Judge is unsatisfied with the response, the bailiff will be summoned to court to “show good cause as to why his Certificate should not be cancelled”. You should ensure that you attend the hearing. Failure to do so could lead to the Judge making a cost order against you.
The grounds for making a Form 4 Complaint.
Firstly, in making a Form 4 complaint you need to be aware that you are effectively asking the court to make a finding that the bailiff is not a “fit and proper” person to hold a bailiff certificate. If the Judge rules in your favour he will know that immediately after his Judgment the bailiff will not be able to continue working as a certificated bailiff and; as a consequence, will lose his employment. A judge will not make such a ruling unless the complaint against the individual bailiff was very serious indeed. As an example; at Leicester County Court on 29th January 2010. Her Honour Judge Hampton in considering a Form 4 Complaint stated the following:
“I have considered whether to find that Mr X (the bailiff) is not a fit and proper person to hold a certificate. That is draconian. Whilst there may be an argument in support of it, it is not appropriate”.
The Judge ordered the person making the Form 4 complaint to pay £750 in costs to the bailiff !!
Although the court will consider any complaint that you may have, it should first be noted that if the complaint is in relation to goods that have been levied upon or the fees charged by the bailiff when enforcing unpaid council tax or parking charge notices then, in the first instance, a complaint should be made to the Local Authority. This is because, the council who instructed the bailiff is wholly responsible for the levy and fees charged by their agents. If the bailiffs behaviour has been AGGRESSIVE, RUDE or THREATENING it may well be that this could be grounds for making a Form 4 Complaint but, once again, you will need to consider before making such an application whether the complaint is serious enough for the Judge to decide that the bailiff is not a “fit and proper” person to hold a bailiff certificate.
What order can the Judge make?
The Judge may make the following orders:
Order compensation to be paid to you. This means that the Judge can award you a sum of money from the “Bailiff Bond”. Such awards are generally very modest.
Cancel the bailiff’s certificate. This will lead to the bailiff immediately losing his employment and will naturally mean that he will not be allowed to work as a bailiff for any other enforcement company.
Dismiss your complaint.
Could I be liable to pay costs to the bailiff if my Form 4 Complaint is rejected?
A cause of great concern is that there are some internet sites which claim that it is a ‘myth’ that debtors can be ordered to pay costs to the bailiff in the event that a Form 4 Complaint is rejected and most serious of all, is that there are also internet sites that charge complainants a fixed fee to draft a Form 4 Complaint on their behalf. Such websites commonly quote numerous legal ‘case laws’ that ‘supposedly’ support the complainants Form 4 Complaint. If you are considering filing a Form 4 Complaint and you refer to various legal cases in your complaint you must make sure they you obtain a full copy of the legal case/judgment and read it for yourself in order to ascertain whether or not it is relevant to your particular Form 4 Complaint. We are receiving regular enquiries from complainants who have filed Form 4 Complaints who have received notification of a hearing date and where the Court have ordered the complainant to serve copies of the ‘legal cases/judgments on both the bailiff and the court. before the hearing !!!
On the matter of Courts ordering the complainant to pay costs to the bailiff in the event of a Form 4 Complaint being rejected, unfortunately this happens quite often and furthermore, there has been a fairly recent ‘landmark’ court judgment outlining the legal basis for the court to order such costs (against the Claimant). All Courts dealing with Form 4 Complaints are familiar with this Judgment. As we are receiving so many more enquiries regarding costs in Form 4 Complaints you will see that we have provided a separate page on this very subject and as evidence, we have provided copies of Judgments including the ‘landmark’ judgment referred to above.
A copy of the EX 345 can be read here: http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.u…/ex345-eng.pdf
If you have any queries about a Form 4 Complaint or wish to discuss whether a Form 4 Complaint is appropriate, please do not hesitate to contact us either by phone or alternatively; by submitting a question.